Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm Pregnant

Most things in life exist within a spectrum. The human visible spectrum ranges from about 4000 to 7500 Angstrom units or 400-750 nanometers, which is preferred nowadays, but I'm old. I like Angstrom units. My favorite color, cadmium red, is one specific point on that spectrum - 6438.4696 Angstrom units. And the human visible spectrum is itself merely a subset of the fuller electromagnetic spectrum.

My opinion about any particular piece of art ranges within a spectrum from wonderful to terrible with every possibility inbetween. I adore Waterhouse's "Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses."

We speak dogmatically about the political spectrum. We range in our religious beliefs from utter surety that there is a Deity, Which keeps Itself busy watching sparrows fall, to hardheaded certainty that the metaphysical plane is an intellectual construct from the mind of Man and is complete bunkum. We live a spectrum-rich life.

But there are some things in life which are binary. Yes, you're reading this on your computer so you inevitably thought immediately of binary code. Coins are binary, head/tail. Most normal light switches are binary, we'll just ignore those pesky 3-way switches (A 3-way? Perversion!) and rheostats, which are spectrum devices (And clearly deviant!). Etc. And that brings us to the title of this post.

You all know the old saying, "You can't be a little bit pregnant." Pregnancy is binary. Either you are pregnant or you are not pregnant. Binary. No spectrum effect for this type of situation. If you tell me you're pregnant, I understand that statement and I'll accept it at face value. If you tell me you're not pregnant, I understand that statement and I'll accept it at face value. If you tell me you're pregnant except for X or Y or Z, I cannot parse that statement into something meaningful. What we've got here is a failure to communicate, my dear Semiotic Cool Hand Luke.

What we've got here is a failure to communicate.
I'm pregnant, except for X or Y or Z.

I unschool, except for math or bedtime or sugar.

I'm sure you're a wonderful person, Cool Hand, and I know you love your kids but are you really pregnant?


  1. You know I love you Frank, but I just don't think that I can agree with the comparison between unschooling and pregnancy, at least as I understand it. (Either and both.)

    No matter what the size or shape of the parenting style, I've always believed that every family must find the path that suits them best, and I've always taken a real issue with the assertion that exactly what works for someone else's family will work exactly that way for mine. As though we're interchangeable, as though our children are as well.

    For the record, we don't place restrictions on sugar or bedtime or force feed math or anything else, but we do have a very loose understanding about responsibilities around the household. It's nothing more or less than I would expect from anyone sharing a home with me.

    Yet I think what we do is unschooling, a version of it that works best for our family. But I guess I don't mind if that means we don't fit the definition of unschoolers, actually, because I haven't made the choices that I've made in order to fit any particular definition. We're just us. And we do what we do because we love and respect our children, and try to reflect that in every area of our lives, just as you and your phenomenal family do.

    If that means we're not "pregnant," so be it.

  2. I understand that some people are unable to get pregnant, due to circumstances out of their control and in spite of wanting it very much. I also understand that being pregnant and experiencing all of the symptoms that come with it is not a desirable condition for the majority of people in our world. What I don't understand are the people who aren't pregnant, don't really want to be pregnant, or do what needs to be done to be pregnant and stay that way, but who insist that they be recognized as pregnant. Anytime somebody tries to describe what being pregnant is like, they jump in with -- "You don't get to decide what works for being pregnant," or some such sentiment. Well, it's true that pregnant people don't get to define what being pregnant means -- but like Frank said, you either are pregnant or you're not. There's a basic formula that proves pregnancy and if you don't have the complete formula that you can't be pregnant.

    I don't believe pregnancy is a good idea for everyone and there are lots of people whom I admire and respect who have never been and never will be pregnant. Just because I'm pregnant and enjoy being pregnant doesn't diminish my appreciation for someone who isn't.

  3. Thank you both for you responses. I wrote this post to be a bit purposefully provocative and under my new-to-me process of writing and posting in one pass, foregoing my historic write-edit-rewrite-reedit process, so it may not be as rigorous as it might have been. I appreciate any and all feedback.

  4. Yes, I remember reading about your new process, and I think it's a great idea, Frank. I have a similar sort of new resolution about speaking up when I have something to add to a conversation, or else I probably wouldn't have responded here. ;)

    It isn't that I don't understand where your frustration is coming from. At least I think that I do - I think from your perspective it's a problem of people who just don't get the real heart and meaning of unschooling but who still claim to be unschoolers - like my mother-in-law, who lets her children run wild, yells at them more often than she speaks to them, and generally doesn't care what they're doing so long as they're not bothering her might claim to be an unschooler because she doesn't teach them anything, when really she's just a lazy, neglectful asshole. (Extreme example.)

    It's just that I feel like I come from a different perspective in the community - being somewhat on the fringes (by choice, I've never been much of a joiner - but still very respectful and admiring of the people in the thick of the unschooling community). For me unschooling was a very hard transition to make - I believed in it from the beginning with my whole heart, it made sense to me on every level, but the act of actually changing my programming took me a very long time. As a result, my family eased into unschooling, bit by bit - starting purely with academics, and after a year of seeing what a great and brilliant thing it was, diving into more of a holistic way of living it by lifting restrictions on food, bathing, and sleep schedules. Even that took a lot of adjustment, as it wasn't just about increasing our trust in our children, but learning to trust ourselves. (As you know.)

    So I guess it tends to make me feel very alienated to think that regardless of where my heart was throughout the process, even today we still don't actually qualify as unschoolers. Not that I would give you that power over me, ultimately, of course, I'll call myself whatever I damn well want, but just going by my general feeling from this post, I'm not sure we make your cut.

    And it's probably one reason I've been inclined to remain on the fringe of the community. This isn't the first time I've seen this sentiment expressed, you're just the lucky guy I'm comfortable enough with to want to finally address some of my feelings. So thanks for listening, at least.

  5. Oh, and I think in the interest of being forthcoming I should mention that even when we were only unschooling academics, I didn't feel like any less of an unschooler, nor do I think anyone who is at least trying to incorporate the spirit of unschooling into their lives should be dinged for not doing it right. We didn't ultimately drop restrictions because we realized we weren't really being unschoolers - we did it because it felt right and natural to our journey at that point. We had discovered it was good, and we wanted more.

    So I think it isn't impossible to think that some of those who say "We unschool everything but math" might eventually come around to letting go of that control, too, given time and support. If they aren't kicked out of the clubhouse too soon.

  6. My dear Kelly, I love to hear your thoughts and I'm very happy that you feel comfortable enough to speak directly and plainly to me here.

    To the points you've made, I always hafta remind myself that the map is not the territory; all language is labelling and all labelling is a crude shorthand for the reality it's trying to describe. In this post I applied a nebulous but proscriptive implied definition to "unschooling." Obviously I am not the arbiter of such things. Like you said in your very first comment, if you love and respect your children and try to mainfest that in every aspect of life, and in your last comment where you pointed out that you did things because they felt right not because they met some arbitrary assertion, then it doesn't really matter what label anyone (including me) tries to impose on you or deny to you. What matters is that the thing itself is genuine and feels right.

    Thank you for responding so fully and informatively.